Thunderbirds – 9. Move – And You’re Dead

Directed by Alan Pattillo

Teleplay by Alan Pattillo

First Broadcast – 10th February 1966

Alan’s off to the races this week in an episode full of high-speed action and a very unusual plot structure. All this and the ability for a puppet to stand still is pushed to the limit!

Lots of crash, bang, wallop in the teaser for this episode which we always like.

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With some beautiful guitar music which punctuates much of the episode, the scene is set with a great model shot of the bridge of San Miguel. The rock carved from polystyrene matches perfectly with the painted backdrop of cliffs in the background. A nice little river trickles through the middle of the canyon. Lovely stuff.

Alan and Grandma Tracy look to be in a bit of a tight spot. Through some clever lighting and camera work, the intense heat of the sun shines through on screen (no pun intended). If you’ve ever wondered what Mary Poppins would look like as a sweaty pensioner, Grandma’s the one to watch this week.

We’re shown two devices, one looks like a particularly vicious hair brush, the other not looking all that harmful really.

A snazzy racing car drives away. The little plasticine figures are looking surprisingly detailed this week, although for me this shot does slightly spoil the effect of Alan and Grandma being trapped at a dizzying height. They don’t appear quite as high up as they do in the puppet shots.

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The situation is quickly explained. There’s a bomb under the bridge and if they move it’s going to detonate. Hence the title:

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It’s an unusually cold opening for a Thunderbirds episode for the characters to already be in trouble. Generally speaking a disaster is slowly built up to over the course of the episode as we get to know the characters and things start to go wrong. Here, the danger is established immediately and then the rest of the episode uses flashbacks to reveal how things got to this point. It makes for a strong opening and a very memorable structure to the episode. As this is another episode that was originally shot as a half hour and extended later, it’s tricky to say whether the episode was always structured like this. It’s perfectly possible that the episode originally started with the race and then built to this point. But we’ll tackle that kind of thing later.

Slowly but surely, or very wrecklessly depending on your perspective, Alan moves his watch into position in order to contact International Rescue. This is actually the first appearance of a communicator watch in Thunderbirds which Alan refers to as his “telecom.” In the close-up insert of Alan’s wrist we can truly appreciate the magnificent pattern of his loud shirt.

Alan calls in and the camera swings around to reveal Jeff sitting at his desk.

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Alan appears on screen…

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And suddenly Jeff is perched on the edge of his desk reading a magazine. How odd. There are also different papers on the table. It seems like such an obvious continuity error that I can’t quite fathom how it actually happened. Possibly the shot of Jeff behind his desk was done for a different episode and used here to fill the gap. It suggests that some alterations were possibly made during the extension of the episode, but it’s just really weird.

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Scott and Virgil are back in the games room which makes its second and final appearance here until being completely revamped for its appearance in the movie Thunderbirds Are Go.

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Jeff has changed positions again, now standing with a communicator in his hand. Over in the corner there’s a plant. Last week, the spare Thunderbird 3 couch was in its place. In fact the main Thunderbird 3 couch is no-where to be seen.

Scott and Virgil arrive and are immediately informed of the stakes. “If you wanna save your brother’s life, move!” … and their grandmother’s life… she’s important too… not to the series, but hopefully to the family…

Thunderbirds 1 and 2 are immediately prepared for launch. It’s great to have that happen so early in the episode. A quick moment is added to the standard Thunderbird 2 launch stock footage to establish that Brains is there, but it does mean that Virgil appears to put on his hat and then loses it again a few moments later.

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Guitar music continues to punctuate the episode and it succeeds in creating a quieter and more tense atmosphere. The mystery of what actually happened to Alan and Grandma contributes to that of course. Overall the audience is getting quite a different experience from the comfort of a slow build up and is left a little on edge, just like the the Tracy family themselves. Jeff conveniently has his map of San Miguel on standby for a situation like this. One assumes we aren’t supposed to take this map literally as geographically its a bit all over the place and/or made up. The real-life San Miguel River is in Colorado, but this map suggests we’re somewhere in Mexico – mainly because of some vaguely Spanish-sounding words that don’t actually make much sense – which most likely puts Parola Sands in Southern California. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter, I just find it fun that someone in the art department had to make up this map based on what they could judge from the writer’s intentions.

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Jeff and Tin-Tin discuss the difficult situation that Alan and Grandma are in. They appear to be the only ones on the island in this episode as no-one else like Gordon or Kyrano come in the room to take an interest. We learn that the bomb is set to go off at 1300 hours unless the waves of the ultrasonic generator are disturbed by movement.

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Pretty soon, Grandma’s out for the count.

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Alan’s stuck looking at his watch and a little bit sweaty.

Virgil and Scott get in contact. For one of the few ocassions in the series, Scott is flying Thunderbird 1 at its known maximum speed of 15,000mph. Previously we’ve only seen him flying her at 7,500mph while approaching London Airport in Trapped in the Sky.

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When he next calls, Alan has his blinker head on and is still quite sweaty. The hair on this Alan head is a little less curly. One thing that is often puzzling about the TV portraits and communications via the watches in particular is exactly where the cameras are that point at the boys when they’re transmitting their messages. Presumably the only camera that could possibly be on Alan is in his watch, and yet the picture transmitted to Jeff clearly isn’t coming from Alan’s wrist.

In order to keep Alan focussed, and to fuel the plot of the episode, Jeff requests that Alan tell them the story of how they got stuck on the bridge. He’s getting very sweaty up until the point when the flashback is about to start and the lighting and sweat levels are suddenly slightly different, suggesting that this could have been a little alteration made for the re-structuring of the episode.

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So through a wibbly-wobbly transition (that’s a technical term), we go back in time!

A very smiley Alan looks out of Thunderbird 2’s window at the spectacular stock footage on display. He’s wearing an outfit later seen in The Cham-Cham, as is Tin-Tin, suggesting that this is an additional scene shot at around the same time as that episode.

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As Thunderbird 2 comes into land, you’ll notice that the tip of the nose of the craft is much shinier than the rest of it, most likely because of a paint touch-up required before filming. Also notice that the ‘2’ numeral underneath is missing.

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As Thunderbird 2 lifts up to reveal the pod, the ‘2’ numeral is back.

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From the pod emerges the BR2 racing car. We know that the engine was built by Brains but the manufacturer of the rest of the car is unknown.

With such low suspension she does struggle a bit getting off the ramp and through the sand, but once on the road she takes off with a fantastic roar and great trails of dust which the effects team would add to road vehicles to make them look that little more believable and exciting.

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The puppet-sized version of the car is used multiple times throughout the series, albeit the set has been altered for its appearance here. It can also be seen in material added to City of Fire and Brink of Disaster as well as 30 Minutes After NoonThe Impostors, and The Man From MI.5.

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Here’s an odd moment. Tin-Tin has her hands all over Virgil the minute Alan leaves. Tin-Tin wishes she could have gone with Alan… to keep him company.

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For some reason that evokes an awkward response from Virgil and two ‘wah-wahs’ from Barry Gray’s orchestra…  I mean the line wasn’t particularly dirty until they made it dirty. The fact that a puppet’s expressions can emote innuendo at all is still pretty impressive.

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And so Thunderbird 2 takes off for home – from a slightly different location to the one it was seen landing in. This footage is also seen in, and was most likely filmed for, Desperate Intruder.

After the commercial break, Alan arrives at the Parola Sans race track.

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You can spot it before this point, but here’s a good shot of Alan’s bag with his initials printed on.

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Alan arrives at the car stacking automobile park which has a decent-sized cigarette stall despite the place being covered with big ‘No Smoking’ signs. Lots of classic cars from the 60’s fill the parking space.

Car stacking does actually exist as a method of increasing parking capacity on a smaller scale, but believe it or not the process takes a lot longer than it does here. My theory is that all of the car stacker scenes in the episode are added material as they take rather a long time and do little to fuel the plot. But it does look cool. Although seeing as the building used to stack all the cars is massive anyway, I feel like they could probably store more cars if the space was used as a regular multi-storey parking lot. I do, however, like that Thunderbirds not only gives us glimpses of futuristic rescue equipment, but also demonstrates how futuristic technology will make mundane tasks like parking a car more exciting… not necessarily more practical, but more exciting!

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Sylvia Anderson puts on her most nasally voice (aside from some interesting performances in The Stately Homes Robberies audio adventure), to tell Alan to get a move on.

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According to Thunderbirds, ‘Autotune’ will mean something quite different in the future to what it does now. Jukeboxes will also be popular again.

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Lambert and Lovegrove from Vault of Death are taking a break from the Bank of England… but they’re still not talking to each other. The barman is later seen preparing drinks in The Man From MI.5 on board Fireflash as well as in other roles during the series.

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Alan is chatting with his mechanic, Kenny Malone. We learn that Alan used to be a motor racing driver but presumably retired when the time came to join International Rescue. Seeing as Alan’s age is generally guessed to be about 21, he can’t have been in the sport all that long considering he would have also had to train hard to be an astronaut. Alan suddenly spots two people that have probably only been sat a few feet away from him the whole time. How he could not be blinded by their colourful shirts remains a mystery. We learn that the dark-haired guy is Victor Gomez, and from the sound of his voice you can tell he’s a nasty piece of work.

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Once Alan and Kenny leave, Gomez and his accomplice, named in the script as Johnnie Gillespie, reveal that nothing will stop them winning the race and getting the prize money. What crooked-sounding fellows.

Then, for some bizarre reason, the sound of racing cars is laid over random shots of the painting behind the bar. I can only assume there was a real desperation to pad the episode out and this was the only idea anyone had. I guess it builds tension and anticipation for the race, but it sure is strange.

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Wow, this sure is a violent race. I’m pretty sure if an explosion this big happened during a real-life race, the whole event would be cancelled because people would have been killed.

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Fortunately, fire and ambulance vehicles are on standby. These are some of the nice hovercraft type vehicles similar to those seen hurtling down the runway in Trapped in the Sky and at various points in the series.

Presumably because everyone else is getting blown to smithereens, the race is now between three drivers: Tracy, Gomez, and Webster.

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The same loud speaker as seen at London Airport is used here. I believe that either Peter Dyneley or David Holliday are making the announcements.

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The race is being presented by a character that is named in the script as Billy Billoxi, but I will just refer to as Eddie Kerr’s dad. He sounds exactly like Kerr and presents in a very similar style, but looks and dresses like he could be Eddie’s father. In the background, the control tower assistant from City of Fire is working the camera.

Webster fails to negotiate a bend and ends up dying horrendously.

At home the family are watching and looking remarkably calm considering how many people are dying. The puppet head used for Jeff is different to the one used in the rest of the episode, a later version of Scott is used, and Gordon is wearing a sweater that he’s only seen wearing again in additional material for Martian Invasion and in Security Hazard. This all suggests that these scenes at home were added or re-shot later on in the production of the series.

Alan and Gomez are the only ones left in the race. The two cars are held on wires as the road rolls beneath them at high speed. With the puppet-sized cars, floor technicians are presumably moving the sets around on trolleys as the cars go back and forth. General Speyer from The Mighty Atom appears to be a mechanic here while Tidman from The Man From MI.5 is on guard. Lovegrove from Vault of Death is wearing a shirt previously worn by Sandy Gibson in the Stingray episode Titan Goes Pop.

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The two cars hurtle around another bend towards the “difficult cliff stretch.” Needless to say that fence is far too flimsy to do its job and Brains will be jolly cross with Alan for scratching the paintwork so much.

In a rather overly-long sequence, Gomez attempts to ram Alan off the road. For some reason it works, but even though the cars are going forward, the cliff backdrop is moving left to right, which somehow gives the illusion that the cars are negotiating a long bend.

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For dramatic effect we’re shown the ralings and the water below very close up to imply how close Alan is to them… unfortunately they just look a little bit too much like a painted backdrop. But that aside, one wonders why exactly there are no cameras or people watching this part of the race. Surely it’s the most exciting part and you could get a helijet or helicopter to cover it? Maybe viewers at home like not knowing whether the racers are going to live or die.

They make it through the stretch, although Alan does manage to blow up a fence in the process.

Here they come! Behind Kenny and the other mechanic is the section of the Australian Atomic Plant from The Mighty Atom which The Hood accidentally fired his gun at.

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Even though throughout  the race the cars have been shown driving from right to left across the screen – this one shot has them going in the opposite direction.

Alan successfully finishes first!

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Gomez and Gillespie aren’t happy. They’d really quite like the designs of Alan’s car, so they’re going to get them… mwhahaha…

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Alan gets to shake hands with Eddie Kerr’s dad and holds a massive trophy. Well done Alan.

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Then things start to go wibbly again and we’re back to Alan on the bridge.

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Scott is told to keep going at maximum speed. It’s certainly different/frustrating for it to take such a large portion of the episode for Thunderbirds 1 and 2 to travel a relatively short distance. Usually there’s a commerical break and in terms of screen-time, Scott and Virgil have made it from the South Pacific to England or wherever in a matter of seconds. Aspects of this story structure work really well, but the seemingly longer travel time is perhaps less satisfying than usual.

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Jeff and Tin-Tin urge Alan to keep talking and tell the rest of the story, but to no avail… Tin-Tin’s outfit and hair in this episode are rather nice though.

After the commerical break, Alan is encouraged to resume telling the story. He and Kenny Malone are bringing the car back to the stacker. Alan hops out to make a telecall. It’s worth noting that Kenny is the only person brave/stupid enough to wear a scarf in the heat of the desert.

After we go through the whole car stacking bit again, Gomez makes a creepy appearance through the doors of the stacker control room. He’s got danger written all over him… Anyway, Kenny heads to the cocktail lounge for a well-deserved piña colada.

The car stacker controller gets a wrench to the back of the head which Gomez refers to as “a little tap.” The scoundrel.

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Meanwhile, Alan occupies a telecall booth. This is the same set of booths seen in The Mighty Atom.

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His surprisingly dark and hairy hand pushes the buttons – letters on the left, numbers on the right.

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Not only have the numbers and letters swapped sides, but Grandma has appeared on the screen! Officially speaking this is her first appearance in Thunderbirds, although this scene was most likely added later so actually, it isn’t.

So for some reason, Gomez and Gillespie’s grand plan – and it would appear that they do all this deliberately – is to drop a car on the telecall booths and kill Alan, presumably taking his car afterwards… because apparently no-one would suspect foul play if they did that.

What’s even stranger is that their plans are somehow foiled when a car pulls up wanting to be stacked. I can’t really believe that the occupants of that car would be the only witnesses. Unless everyone in the cocktail bar is completely intoxicated from the race celebrations, someone would have heard the enormous sound of crunching metal. So Gomez and Gillespie decide to leg it.

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And it’s all completely pointless anyway, because Alan escapes with absolutely no idea what’s happening – he must be a bit deaf too.

Hope the car insurance covers that…

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Alan says that when the attendant woke up he sounded the alarm… as if no-one, including Alan, had noticed what had happened.

The story continues at Grandma’s house. The house itself, with some modifications, later appears as the Williams’ house in Cry Wolf and the Morrisons’ house in Security Hazard. Grandma rocks back and forth in her rocking chair in a slightly derranged way. This would have been her first appearance in the series in its original half hour format. She announces her excitement at joining International Rescue at last. One assumes she hasn’t sold the house or anything like that. She doesn’t seem to take much luggage with her either.

Alan and Grandma hit the road in the BR2 at breakneck speed. In the model shot, not only has the steering wheel moved from the left to the right, but it does in fact show Gomez and Gillespie in the car from later in the episode – not only that, but Gillespie is the one driving.

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The car is diverted towards the bridge of San Miguel… or the San Miguel Bridge if you’d prefer.

But it’s a trap! A poorly detailed plasticine figure, which we discover is Gomez, stops the car at gunpoint.

Alan reveals that he gave the prize money to charity because he’s a nice bloke. Gomez is being hilariously cocky. Then Alan reaches for a standard International Rescue sidearm but is stopped in his tracks…

Surprise, surprise, Gillespie has a gun too. He makes beautiful use of grammar saying, “we don’t wanna waste no more time on this punk.” Our apologies, cowboy…

Gillespie gets in the car with a gun pointed at Grandma and they drive away, leaving Gomez standing there like a lemon…

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Soon enough they arrive at the bridge, and a ladder is there waiting for them…

After another break, Jeff puts Alan in contact with Scott who is now flying a version of Thunderbird 1 with a different paint job. Scott is just crossing the pacific coast and we’re shown the same stock footage we saw Alan gawping at earlier.

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Jeff encourages Alan to keep going with the story. Only the great Peter Dyneley could stop the same repetitive lines from sounding dull.

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So back to the story, Gomez has somehow managed to catch up with the others despite there being no sign of another vehicle. They refuse to let Grandma go because aside from wanting to steal the car they really are incredibly nasty and want Alan and his family to suffer as much as possible.

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When handed the ultrasonic generator, Grandma is rather unimpressed – saying, “what’s that for?” in a brilliantly condescending way. Alan, meanwhile, is furious and gets very close to swearing like a sailor.

In a well-puppeteered moment, Alan and Grandma cautiously step along the girder. Alan puts down the generator under instruction from Gillespie. Why doesn’t he take the opportunity to sit down like Grandma does?

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So Gomez, who really sounds quite mad at this point, explains the setup again for anyone who missed it. Somehow they managed to get underneath the bridge to position the bomb… somehow…  Anyway, he promises that they’re going to switch on the ultrasonic generator by remote control, although judging by how sadistic Gomez is and how much movement Alan gets away with, I wouldn’t be surprised if the device does nothing and was just a sick joke to keep them there.

And so, with everything in place, the crooks make their escape and so we come back to the beginning of the episode. Pretty neat, huh?

Aboard Thunderbird 2, Brains is in his laboratory. Behind him appears to be a window with clouds going past, even though as far as we know there are no other windows in Thunderbird 2 aside from in the cockpit. He surveys a newspaper cutting of the bridge and highlights that they can’t get too close until the generator’s been neutralised.

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Alan looks a little possessed by this point.

Thunderbird 1 finally arrives and touches down magnificently.

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Scott attempts to get information from Alan about the generator, rather curiously a slightly different Scott head is used and he talks to Alan on a completely blank background.

Tin-Tin is in tears by this point – she’s done rather well at holding them back on this ocassion. Jeff reminds Alan of the code of International Rescue – not to give up at any cost. Make a note of that one folks and we’ll see how good people are at sticking to it.

Virgil finally arrives and brings Thunderbird 2 down on slope P701… do people normally number their slopes?

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Thanks to the use of stock footage, Virgil very briefly loses his hat again when dropping the pod.

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It’s probably the quickest pod release in the series and… oh dear… The wideness of the shot has clearly revealed that, as is the case whenever the pod is dropped in the series, only the front section of Thunderbird 2 and a single telescopic leg are used. One should be able to see the rest of Thunderbird 2’s fuselage here but it is no-where to be found.

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From the pod comes the Neutralizer Tractor, seen only once in the series. It’s an unusual vehicle that’s for sure. Its function seems a bit limited, basically being a slightly more portable version of the Transmitter Truck.

Using the viewfinder, Brains lines up the dish to transmit a signal that will somehow stop the generator from operating.

A combination of close-up shots and a loud buzzing noise indicates that something is happening. I’m rather glad that we can’t actually see anything happening. I don’t think some badly animated wavy lines would have given the situation much gravitas.

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Brains gives the all-clear after a fuzzy noise, often heard in Supercar, indicates that the generator has been well and truly neutralised.

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Virgil moves in with a very bizarre machine indeed, but one which I really like – the Jet Air Transporter. It’s so teeny-tiny.

Arriving at the bridge, Virgil cranks up the jets.

Alan and Grandma are encouraged to jump off the bridge into the column of air generated by the machine. With any luck it’ll also cool them down. It’s certainly a quick way to get them down, it just looks a bit silly to see the rescue victims flailing around in mid-air. Quite how a basically unconscious Alan climbs into the control area I don’t really know.

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With Grandma perched on the edge of the machine, Virgil pulls away.

And just in time too because the bomb explodes with quite a bang, knocking the bridge down and into the river below. Boy will those construction workers get a surprise when they arrive on Monday morning to find their bridge has gone.

Meanwhile, Gomez and Gillespie are making good their escape in the BR2. Continuity between the model car and the puppet car is a bit off with the steering wheel switching sides.

I was wondering where Scott had gotten to this whole time. For no real reason at all, Thunderbird 1 starts shooting at the car. I don’t think Scott’s actually trying to kill them seeing as they’re not really a danger to anyone by this point, unless the BR2’s engine really is an important secret.

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In a complete over-reaction, Gillespie tries to take control of the car just because Gomez suggested that they stop, which makes sense. I’d probably give up when an enormous aircraft with a machine gun started shooting at me.

The BR2 starts to go off the road, even though in the model shot at least, Gillespie is no-where near the steering wheel. The shot of the car flying through the barrier doesn’t quite match up with the car going off the road, but never mind, it looks cool. The car rolls down the hill, presumably killing Gomez and Gillespie in the process. There’s no explosion though so I guess that’s good… All in all I think Scott handled that quite well – two people died and a priceless car was wrecked… nice job…

But don’t worry about that, Alan and Grandma are safe and Thunderbird 2 takes off for home. Hurrah!

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We’ve got time for one more scene to pad the episode out. Tin-Tin is back in the outfit she was wearing in the flashback when they were dropping Alan off in Thunderbird 2. Virgil is applying his artistic talents to a portrait of Alan holding his trophy. Hilarity ensues as he’s encouraged to keep still.

Scott enters with a slightly different puppet head to what we see in the rest of the scene.

Virgil reveals his Picasso-style portrait and Alan is less than pleased. If he weren’t a puppet, he’d probably spit on it. Virgil and Scott just continue to be marvellously sarcastic and cheeky, giving us a playful glimpse at the brothers’ relationship.

Alan gets his revenge by creeping behind Jeff’s desk and using what one assumes are the controls for the Thunderbird 3 couch. When Virgil and Scott fall, Alan has managed to disappear from behind the desk very fast.

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Tin-Tin cheers Alan up immensely by saying that he’s far better than any painting. Awww, these two are such a sweet couple.

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And so the episode comes to an end, with Alan home safe and sound and not sweating profusely anymore.

Move – And You’re Dead is an episode which does things a bit differently and it stands out nicely because of that. The structure is unusual and I’m glad they only decided to do it once, but for a one-off it plays around with the viewers’ expectations and gives the plot some mystery and suspense. We get to learn more about Alan and a small indication of what life was like for the Tracys before International Rescue. For the most part Move – And You’re Dead bears its additional material well. The episode perhaps suffers from some over-long set pieces like the car stacking and the race. The rescue itself, however, is a bit too quick and simplistic to be as memorable as others. The limited functionality of the pod vehicles used contributes to that as well. Overall though, this is a great Thunderbirds episode which develops some characters further and shows us some tension that we’ve never seen before with members of the team facing danger themselves.

Next week, we’re off to the movies, and International Rescue is faced with a nail-biting chase to stop The Hood selling the plans of the Thunderbird machines! Stay tuned for Martian Invasion.

One thought on “Thunderbirds – 9. Move – And You’re Dead

  1. Pingback: Thunderbirds – Extending The First Eleven – Security Hazard

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